Are Facebook friendships changing our brains?
THE number of Facebook friends an individual has is linked to the amount of grey matter they have in specific regions of the brain, UK neuroscientists have shown.
And while it is sometimes said that online social networking friends differ in intimacy and number from those acquired through other social interaction, the researchers showed variability in the size of Facebook networks was significantly correlated with the span of each individual’s real world friendships.
Brain imaging of 125 avid Facebook-using university students found the number of social network ‘friends’ reliably predicted grey matter density in the right superior temporal sulcus, left middle temporal gyrus and entorhinal cortex, they said.
While they were keen to find out whether the “increasing ubiquity” of internet usage may in fact be shaping human brains, they conceded that the current study could not answer this question.
Either a relationship between brain structure and social network participation arises over time through friendship-dependent plasticity in certain brain areas, or individuals with a specific brain structure may be predisposed to acquire more friends than others, they said.
“The relative contributions of ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’ remain to be determined,” they concluded.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B 2011; online 18 Oct